ON MENTAL ILLNESS: The Importance of Down Time

Jack Bragen
Friday July 05, 2019 - 02:43:00 PM

In my twenties and early thirties, I struggled to have and maintain conventional employment and self-employment. I was not happy with the prospect of living on SSDI and SSI. I wanted more than that for myself. I was forced by circumstances to accept SSDI and SSI at age twenty-five. At the time, I hadn't yet given up the battle. I continued to try self-employment and a number of jobs. However, finally I settled in, realizing that the psychiatric condition, the medication, and numerous other factors made me significantly impaired concerning work.

When I did have jobs, weekend work was the easiest to maintain. I found that if I had four or five days in a row off, it was far easier to go back to work for two to three days. And this may be particular to me. Others' needs could be totally different. I continue to have basic responsibilities, which at times, are stressful. In some instances, things are hard enough that I get symptomatic, even while I take a lot of medication. Consequently, it matters that I sometimes get some down time, in which nothing or next to nothing is expected. 

When I worked weekends, I had four to five days to recuperate from a few days of work. A psychiatrist once told me that people require three days to recover from a stressful event. If you suffer from a psychiatric condition, you should not expect yourself to be able to perform hard things in a nonstop manner. Trying to do this can only lead to a relapse. 

More effort isn't the answer. For some people in big business, it is all about maxing-out the effort level. This is not what you do if you have a disability that affects the central nervous system. 

It is okay to acknowledge a disability. It doesn't mean that you must give up on accomplishing something in life. It means that you relinquish a do-or-die mentality about some definitions of success. Instead, you could redefine success to something realistically attainable. I'm not knocking work attempts. There are people with psych disabilities who are capable of full-time work. 

A "search"--not always an internet search, for something unconventional could yield something that you might not have thought of. Maybe you were meant for something better than just a job. Self-employment could be an option. Independent employment is another option. Something in which you can work at your own pace, take time off when you need it, and not have to deal with big stress; it is a possible solution. Yet, there are not a lot of established positions like that. You might have to invent something. Whatever you decide on, it should be flexible. If you aren't feeling well one morning, you should have the option of taking the day off. 

A common scenario of challenged people (not just mentally ill), in jobs, is where the employee begins to call in sick, and may invent things or convince themselves of physical illness so that they can furnish an excuse. A mental health day off ought to be acceptable enough. We should not have to fabricate things. 

When someone begins to take time off, it causes their job to be in jeopardy. The world of work isn't sympathetic to the emotions of the workers. They can get people who are willing to show up consistently, so there is no reason for them to pay for someone with attendance that is less than perfect or nearly so. 

Although the above situation is very unfair, it will not change in the foreseeable future. Then, we are left with unconventional forms of employment. And, ironically, people forced into the unusual, at a guess, could have a larger, not lesser chance of this ending up lucrative. Why not be the owner of a small business? 

If you are interested in such a thing, you should learn about the applicable norms that apply to a business you'd like to start. Even if you have a very different and hopefully better business concept, you should be aware of preexisting companies, how they manage to succeed, and what makes them tick. If you incorporate time off into your business plan, you might make less money than someone who is continuously prepared to take jobs. But you could still make some money at it. 

When I worked for a small pizza company, I got somewhat close to the owners. The main owner told me that he could never make it as a driver. This was despite him hiring and supervising numerous drivers and being the head of the company. Self-employment isn't inherently harder or easier than working for a wage--it uses a different set of skills. 

But my point really is, if the conventional doesn't work, why not try the unconventional? And, secondly, it is very important for mentally ill people to have time off when we need it. 

Working from home is the dream job of many people. Transcribing work at one time was a big deal and allowed many people to make a living in the comfort of their homes. Transcription work is probably harder than it once was to obtain, the pay is probably less, and the demands are probably more. 

In modern society, across the board, all the jobs seem to be ridiculously demanding and to pay less for more effort. If someone has a disability affecting the central nervous system, we should have as much time off as we need. Social Security is worth getting, and so is low-income housing. This is because if mentally ill, we should not count on always being able to work. 

Psychiatric disabilities aren't going to disappear with more effort. They aren’t going to go away if we stop medications against medical advice. The best bet is to learn something that requires a lot of skill, and to find a part-time flexible position in that field. Medication may slow you down in your job. However, if you have a good enough level of competency and skill, as well as attention to detail, these are traits that can make up for slowness. If you are good enough, an employer may be willing to make special allowances for you, based on your merit. 


Jack Bragen's self-published books are available on Amazon, Lulu, and from other vendors.